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The Fine Art of 'Boss Science' 209

Posted by Zonk
from the hot-air-rises-is-a-pretty-basic-principle dept.
BoredStiff writes "NYMag has up an article that explores Boss Science and the minds of American corporate leaders. In the real world, bosses are known to suffer from a long list of social pathologies: naked aggression, credit hogging, micromanaging, bullying, you name it. Leadership research shows that subtle nasty moves like glaring and condescending comments, explicit moves like insults or put-downs, and even physical intimidation can be effective paths to power. Research also shows that employees tend to see the jerk as boss material. The article goes on to discuss some of the science bosses apply to making an operation run smoothly: 'A researcher reported that one law firm deconstructs its HR needs by personality traits. It insists on extremely bright employees who are also extremely insecure. 'They want them to think that working really hard matters,' he explains. Through this prism, personality types can even be mixed and matched to make a team function more efficiently.'"
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The Fine Art of 'Boss Science'

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  • Conversely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:39PM (#18708265) Homepage Journal
    Or! You can find the best talent there is, treat your employees with respect, compensate them fairly (or very well if they are particularly valuable) and work from the perspective that a place of work is a place of education where people will gather skills and hopefully work to the best of their ability. The danger of this is that they will not stay because they are hired away, but honestly if your employees are not being recruited by everyone else out there, they are not the best and brightest.

    • The Enneagram (Score:4, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:47PM (#18708423)
      It's not just your workers, it's what the workers want out of the job. Do they want to be seen as the heros? Do they want the drama? Do they want to it to be done exactly right? Do they want to tell other people to do the work?

      There are a number of books focused on that. The Enneagram covers 9 different styles.

      Take that and apply the Peter Principle and you have a good understanding of why bosses are such jerks. 8 out of 9 times, they won't have the same goals that you have (and the other time they'll be in active competition with you) and they're not skilled enough to handle the situation.
      • Re:The Enneagram (Score:4, Interesting)

        by BWJones (18351) * on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:59PM (#18708673) Homepage Journal
        It's not just your workers, it's what the workers want out of the job.

        Precisely. Some folks are just in it for the paycheck, but that does not mean that they do not do their work with any lesser degree of competency. Other folks are in it to be famous while others still are doing their jobs to be influential. The trick is to create an environment where all approaches can be fostered and yet still maintain productivity, a sense of satisfaction (for you and your employees), and a positive income.

        Do they want to be seen as the heros?

        Heros I can take working for me. They tend to work very hard, are people pleasers and can often be trusted (they make good classified materials risks). The dangerous part about them is that they also tend to be co-dependent which for the company is not often a problem, but it leads to problems in their personal lives.

        Do they want the drama?

        These people I *don't* want to work with. They are always sabotaging productivity in the name of something happening where they are at the center of attention. They such cycles and personnel time up like no other with the exception of the pathological narcissist.

        Do they want to it to be done exactly right?

        Fine, but allow them the opportunity to see failure as a learning experience. It (failure) will happen and if you encourage a culture of insisting everything is done without mistakes, you never hear about the mistakes that end up biting you in the ass down the road.

        Do they want to tell other people to do the work?

        No, it is a team and if they want the glory without the work then they don't work for me.

        • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:30PM (#18709245)

          Heros I can take working for me. They tend to work very hard, are people pleasers and can often be trusted (they make good classified materials risks).

          Those aren't the heros I was referring to. I'm talking about the ones who skip steps that they know aren't needed ... and then show everyone how great they are when they fix the problems. Even though those problems would have been caught earlier or prevented if all the steps had been followed. On the other hand, heros make good firefighters (real ones, who put out real fires).

          These people I *don't* want to work with. They are always sabotaging productivity in the name of something happening where they are at the center of attention.

          Drama r0xx0r in advertising and entertainment and fashion and so forth. If you're doing tech, drama SUCKS!

          Fine, but allow them the opportunity to see failure as a learning experience.
          :D
          Not when you're managing a nuclear plant. (Which is also a bad match for the heros and drama queens.)

          What personality types you want on your team (if you even want a team) depends more on what the job is. If you get the right mix at the right job, you won't even need a boss. But that's extremely rare.

          But I think the biggest problem with that article is that it mentions some of the different types ... but then doesn't try to look at the "jerk's" relationship with those other types. What happens when you have two narcissistics on a team? They can't BOTH be the boss. What if you have two assholes? Two jerks? THREE?

          And they only really covered one type: the narcissistic who won't even stick around but hops to a new job as soon as one is available.

          Now imagine working for a perfectionist jerk (do it over and get it right this time).
          Or a drama queen jerk (watch "The Devil Wears Prada").
          Or a hero jerk (nothing leaves his desk until it's a crisis).
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by geekoid (135745)
            Fine, but allow them the opportunity to see failure as a learning experience. :D
            Not when you're managing a nuclear plant. (Which is also a bad match for the heros and drama queens.)

            Actually critical systems have a method specifically for learning from failure. It's called training exercise.

            Learning from failure is a great tool for growing strong employees.
    • Re:Conversely (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mdkess (1070356) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:00PM (#18708699) Homepage
      I think one of the big issues with this is that becoming a manager is the only way that an employee can advance their career. So when your brilliant engineer decides that he needs more money, his or her only option is to go into management, and the company ends up losing a talented engineer and ends up with a bad manager who probably wishes they could be an engineer again, and all of a sudden doesn't like his job anymore. Also, you might have an average engineer who would be a great manager, but the system fails again in this regard because this guy won't get noticed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BWJones (18351) *
        HP used to have a policy of only promoting people to management who had been engineers. This had a couple of benefits including the managers ability to know work flows and products as well as still allowing the manager to be able to participate in the work and product development. This of course changed as part of the culture shift at HP around the same time somebody had the bright idea of canceling their RPN calculators.

        However, to more directly answer your point, smarter companies distribute managerial
        • by Grishnakh (216268)
          Of course they need to understand that a manager does not necessarily mean a pay scale increase.

          If there's no pay scale increase for becoming a manager, then what's the incentive to give up an engineering job to become a manager? It seems like the only people who'd be interested in management in this situation are those who are poor/mediocre engineers and/or more interested in politics and empire-building than actually doing productive work. This is exactly what I saw in my last company, which was another
          • by King_TJ (85913) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:49PM (#18709567) Journal
            Right... I think a good bit of what really happens is, people join the ranks of "management", and then they discover that they have more control over their payscale than they ever did before. If you're an engineer for example, the best you can probably hope for is that all of your hard work and willingness to pull long hours when needed gets noticed, so you get a few extra percent when your annual raise comes around. But your pay is still pretty much fixed, based on what *management* has decided the range of pay will be for that position.

            Once you're part of management, you can position yourself so your team of people beneath you accomplishes goals that you can then at least partially claim credit for, thereby giving you "easy reasons" for your own pay raise. They do the work, and you share in the reward. Furthermore, you have all these other tools at your disposal (in many cases). You get the say-so in deciding if your team should hire on additional staff, or cut back, or simply stay put with a "hiring freeze". When you dislike an employee's personality, you can make him go away. The rest of the team just has to put up with these problems, or else potentially face disciplinary measures including docking their pay! And of course, you can juggle all the numbers to put yourself in the most positive light possible, to further justify your own pay raise. (The rest of the people working beneath you probably don't even have access to those numbers, much less authority to present them to top-level execs.)
            • by xtal (49134) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @05:20PM (#18710065)
              A few secrets:

              - Management typically sees engineers as a means to an end, and an interchangable means at that. You pay market rate for engineering and they get the job done. Engineers do NOT make companies money - products do. If you want to make money as an engineer, you do NOT do it as an employee. You do it the way lawyers do - the retainer and contract model. Engineers are STUPID for agreeing to be employees. You sold your soul (and market power) for an easy paycheque.

              - Profit comes from managing capital, NOT engineering. Managers are paid more because they manage the capital. That's what makes companies work.

              I don't agree with all this, but it's based on my observtions of how the world works. If you want to make money as an engineer, look at how lawyers do it. Otherwise, you better be an entrepreneur, or willing to work the corporate management ladder.
              • by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @06:23PM (#18710873)
                The retainer and contract model doesn't work with engineering, simply because companies don't expect to handle engineering that way, since other engineers aren't already doing that.

                The contract model (without the retainer bit) does work, but only to a certain extent. Most contractors work for another company that just subcontracts them out to other companies, taking a cut of their pay. It isn't much different from an employment agency.

                Independent contracting (often called "consulting"), however, is another matter. However, the problem here is that this only works if you're an expert in something, and have established yourself this way. For people fresh out of college, this obviously won't work; the only feasible way of earning money is to become someone's employee at this point. Worse, for many (most?) projects, the project is simply too big to contract out to independent contractors working at home. It could be contracted to one of those contracting companies I mentioned in the paragraph above, but as I pointed out the engineer is still someone's employee, it's just a different corporate structure.

                Personally, since I hate management and the inefficiency that comes with working in a large corporation, I hope to eventually become an independent contractor. I've already signed up to do my first job on the side which I'll be starting very soon; hopefully it'll go well and within 5 years I can be doing this full-time instead of being someone else's bitch, err, employee.

                BTW, one way I've found which works pretty well for getting more money in engineering is to quit! At least now, when companies are clamoring for experience engineers, (and this was even more true during the dot-com boom) they'll pay a lot more to someone new to get them to take the position, while they'll give out only meager raises to loyal employees. So by changing jobs every 3 years or so, you can increase your salary quite handsomely as long as the market rates keep increasing. The only thing to beware of is leaving too soon, since companies catch on (even though the whole matter is intellectually dishonest; if they valued their employees, why wouldn't they give them better raises than market rate?).
                • My favourite thing is when the manager changes jobs, and insists on lying about how much he was paying his employees. At my work, we are just about to get our third manager in a year (the fourth in two years, but I wasn't around for that). During both change-overs, the manager insisted that we quote a higher wage to the new manager than we were actually receiving; like, they felt we deserved more money, they weren't willing to pay it themselves, and were totally willing to dupe the new manager into paying
                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by Aceticon (140883)
                  I work as an IT contractor in the UK (previously in Holland)

                  One of the great things of being one is that nobody will look twice if your CV says you've been changing assignments every 6 months.

                  It is true that as a contractor i work via an agency, and they take a cut. The thing is, they get a 20% cut and I get the other 80%. If i was working as a permanent employee for a company that then placed me at their clients (for example a consultancy or a "human resources" company) then it would be the other way aroun
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by ross.w (87751)

                Engineers do NOT make companies money - products do.
                Unless you work for a consulting firm, where you ARE the product. I have found you get treated with a lot more respect usually.
              • by syousef (465911) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @07:45PM (#18712153) Journal
                Management typically sees engineers as a means to an end, and an interchangable means at that. You pay market rate for engineering and they get the job done. Engineers do NOT make companies money - products do. If you want to make money as an engineer, you do NOT do it as an employee. You do it the way lawyers do - the retainer and contract model. Engineers are STUPID for agreeing to be employees. You sold your soul (and market power) for an easy paycheque.

                There's a lot to be said for stability if you can find it. When you're young and times are good, contracts and retainers serve you well. When times get leaner, or there are other priorities in life, having a secure job is a much better proposition. I think it's obvious you're young and probably don't have family commitments. I think you'll change your mind if you're ever ill for a substantial period, or have a sick child, or there's a large downturn. Summarily calling engineers who take full time paid jobs stupid is at best arrogant.


              • - Management typically sees engineers as a means to an end, and an interchangable means at that. You pay market rate for engineering and they get the job done. Engineers do NOT make companies money - products do.


                Um. The trend is away from manufacturing and towards services. Increasingly, it is indeed the engineers who DO make the company money. And will be more and more so as time goes on.

                C//
          • by j-pimp (177072)

            Of course they need to understand that a manager does not necessarily mean a pay scale increase.

            If there's no pay scale increase for becoming a manager, then what's the incentive to give up an engineering job to become a manager? It seems like the only people who'd be interested in management in this situation are those who are poor/mediocre engineers and/or more interested in politics and empire-building than actually doing productive work. This is exactly what I saw in my last company, which was another big tech company where managers were all former engineers, and there wasn't necessarily more pay for going into management.

            What about the people that want to teach? Do you not have any of those in your company? How about not promoting people unless they teach. Require management candidates to teach workshops and such. The problem with your company seems that they got it half right. If you give managers a higher payscale, people will sell out, and not be happy. However, positions of power always attract those that seek power. You have to cultivate an environment of teaching. That involves rewarding those that teach. Put up a w

            • by Grishnakh (216268)
              Teach? Every tech company I've ever seen was chronically understaffed, so there's no time to waste with teaching.

              Plus, I've been through lots of "training" courses in my engineering career. Personally, I haven't found too many of them to be terribly useful; I don't retain much from it. I learn far more by "doing", teaching myself, and by learning from my direct coworkers, than by sitting in a classroom.

              Personally, I have no idea what the best model for structuring companies for best management is. From
          • What many /.ers fail miserabley to understand is that any organization will have politics embedded into it no matter what.

            You can let people completely unprared to handle politics do the politics (that is engineers, programmers, technicians, etc) or you can let people trained to handle politics to do so.

            Having people handling the politics inherent in an organization allows others to get on with the job they are good at.

            So stop demonizing your manager, if he is a good one he is allowing you to be more produc
      • No fortunately it is not that bad everywhere. There are companies where an engineer can advance without following the management track and can even earn a lot more than his line manager. If you wish to land that kind of job, get into aerospace and defence, but you better start early - because experience counts in those corporations.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fred_A (10934)

      Or! You can find the best talent there is, treat your employees with respect, compensate them fairly (or very well if they are particularly valuable) and work from the perspective that a place of work is a place of education where people will gather skills and hopefully work to the best of their ability.

      Sure, you can do that and sleep like a baby... while your competition laughs all the way to the bank (and their employees stare nervously at the ceiling all night long while shaking from the weird mix of

      • by sconeu (64226) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @05:14PM (#18709973) Homepage Journal
        Evil will always win because good is dumb!
      • Re:Conversely (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BWJones (18351) * on Thursday April 12, 2007 @05:27PM (#18710163) Homepage Journal
        Sure, you can do that and sleep like a baby...

        Or, you can stay far enough in front that nobody else knows or is ready for what you are doing. Admittedly this is easier in the hard core sciences (where I live). When you start making widgets or providing services, all bets are off here.

        And what's more, once someone starts bending the rules, everybody *has* to do the same or be left behind to shrivel and die.

        Alternatively, you could act in an honorable manner and expect, no demand that those companies who work with you/for you/supply to you also act with honesty and respect for their employees and customers.

        Yes it would be nice if the world was fair. It might even be the sign that we're a civilised society. However currently the world is what it is (i.e. certainly not fair at all) and that is one of the most important lessons to be learned, bitter as it is.

        This is the problem we are currently facing with big business and politics. Everybody has come to expect that our politicians and industry leaders are pathological liars with no ability or willingness to do the right thing. Is this acceptable? If we accept this, does it mean the fall of our culture/civilization? The USA is only a couple hundred years old you know...

        On a side note, it might be useful to remember that the legal system doesn't have anything to do with being fair.

        Funny, in civics class back in high school and college, fairness was what we were taught the legal system was all about. The establishment of rules and laws that enabled the Constitutional structure that this country was built upon.

        Would you expect physics to be fair ?

        Physics is what it is... A set of rules and laws that govern a reasonable set of expectations that are set in a framework of understanding. Law should be like that, but we have this little notion called free will. Humans fsck it all up, but physics itself is pure. The trick is that humans can be punished when they violate cultural laws while physicists are celebrated for violating physical laws.

        • by Fred_A (10934)

          On a side note, it might be useful to remember that the legal system doesn't have anything to do with being fair.

          Funny, in civics class back in high school and college, fairness was what we were taught the legal system was all about. The establishment of rules and laws that enabled the Constitutional structure that this country was built upon.

          You might in a way consider that it's fair because everyone is subject to the same rules. In the same way that gravity is in an abstract way "fair" because everybody

          • Re:Conversely (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Dun Malg (230075) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @06:36PM (#18711063) Homepage

            People are trained from the cradle onwards to compete against against one another, never to cooperate.
            That's not actually true. People are taught to cooperate for most of their formative years. Cooperate with your team, compete against the other guy's team. This is as old as the cavemen. Our tribe good, their tribe bad. It can be seen at scales from "family" to "nation". Seriously, haven't you ever met one of those creepy fucks who've been taught by their sicko parents to "win at all costs"? Full of anger and jealousy at the slightest victory by someone else? That's what someone "trained from the cradle onwards to compete" looks like.
          • by BWJones (18351) *
            You seem to think that people will act honourably but they won't. People are trained from the cradle onwards to compete against against one another, never to cooperate.

            You have never worked with a really good team then... If there are people that I work with who do not exhibit honorable characteristics (honesty, hard work, fair and equitable dealing), I am very careful with them and will not give them the same latitude. It's simple really when you can surround yourself with people like this. In terms of
      • by Fred_A (10934)
        As an addendum to this, I wanted to add that I believe the above mostly applies to medium/large to large/transnational companies but that smallish companies can actually be run in a decent way.

        I am *very* familiar with companies on the *large* (as in transnational multibillion) side for various familial reasons and shady deals were and are now increasingly unavoidable. By shady, I mean both in a moral and in a structural sense, in moral as in a *major* lab deciding to layoff 10% of it's worldwide work force
    • by mobby_6kl (668092)

      Or! You can find the best talent there is, treat your employees with respect, compensate them fairly (or very well if they are particularly valuable) and work from the perspective that a place of work is a place of education where people will gather skills and hopefully work to the best of their ability.
      Holy shit dude. With insight like that, any company you start/manage is bound to dominate the market and take over the world!
  • by zyl0x (987342) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:40PM (#18708285)
    Boss Science reminds me of another acronym.. can't seem to remember it, but I'm sure it had something to do with upper management..
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by ion++ (134665)
      Maybe it was the initials? BS? Bull Shit?
    • Re:Coincidence? (Score:5, Informative)

      by spottedkangaroo (451692) * on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:06PM (#18708815) Homepage
      Canonical abbreviation. NASA is an acronym because you pronounce it. FDA is a canonical abbreviation because you don't. Sadly, the distinction is nearly gone, but there used to be a difference, and it wasn't all that long ago.
      • by zyl0x (987342)
        I stand corrected.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Xiaran (836924)
        The things is that that can get very fuzzy, when some people procounce things and others dont. For example I worked with some Germans that pronounced VOIP. The told me that everyone in germany says VOIP. I used to know a guy that called ATMs "at ems".
        • by AuMatar (183847)
          Hodl on- you don't pronounce VOIP? I don't know anyone in the US who says Vee oh eye pee. Its VOIP.
          • by Xiaran (836924)
            I dont actually. I always say Voice Over Eye Pee. But Im an Australian living in London... I usually say Ess Emm Essing rather than texting.
          • by khallow (566160)
            Actually, I say "Voice over IP". So there's yet another way to pronounce it.
      • The reason the distinction is gone is things switch too easily between them. NASA is an abbreviation that we've figured out that we can pronounce. WoW is similar -- the game patches are named WoW-someversion.exe, I believe -- and I never really thought of it as "wow" until people started pronouncing it everywhere.
  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:43PM (#18708335) Journal
    "employees tend to see the jerk as boss material."

    And voters tend to see the jerk as presidential material.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by endianx (1006895)
      Which country are you referring too? Here in the US, I don't think there has been a president in my lifetime that was perceived as a jerk.
      • by FooAtWFU (699187)
        Hey, all else about his politics and lifestyle aside, wasn't Bill Clinton pretty widely perceived as a jerk for sleeping around (and then lying about it in court)?
      • Lyndon Baines Johnston?

        Richard Millhouse Nixon?

        At least by proxy (gentlemen such as Al "I'm in control, here, at the White House" Haig) Ronald Wilson Reagan

        And, almost, Robert "Darth" Dole.

        I believe it was Harry Truman who said Americans thought it ok if the president was a SOB, as long as he was Their SOB.
  • What matters then? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by touch0phgmail.com (1087675) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:44PM (#18708353)
    It insists on extremely bright employees who are also extremely insecure. 'They want them to think that working really hard matters,' he explains.
    Then what really does matter in the workplace?
    • by node 3 (115640) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:48PM (#18708441)
      You're hired!
    • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:59PM (#18708681) Homepage Journal
      Succeeding. It's just as easy to work hard on the wrong thing.
      • by Mab_Mass (903149) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:28PM (#18709191) Homepage Journal

        Or, to put it another way, the only thing that should matter to an employer is that you add more value to the company than it costs to pay you.

        Emphasis here on should. Too often, people only care about how many hours you put in and think that more hours is the sign of a better employee. I personally side with an old boss of mine who thought that someone working constant overtime is a sign of a problem. Either that person's boss is piling on too many tasks or that person is in the wrong position.

        Then, there was another boss I had who took the attitude that management is a service done to those "under" you, where the manager's role was to shelter them from higher level BS and help them get the job done.

        I had another boss once who told us that we shouldn't be "afraid" to come in on evenings and weekends. He was an asshole.

        Now, I'm rambling. -1 offtopic

        • To mean it means that the manager is RESPONSIBLE for getting the time, materials, funding, resources, etc to his/her people so that they can finish the job/project/etc in the time required.

          If you (the worker) are dealing with political bullshit, your manager is not doing a good enough job. The same with putting in overtime or having to scrounge for resources or doing a half-assed job just so you can meet the deadline.
        • by ArsonSmith (13997)
          I think the bosses that like to see people working overtime have either two things, trying to show that they have too much work to do to upper management, or the direct production idea as if everyone was a factory worker.

          If you are stamping out cogs at 10 an hour and work an hour of overtime you get an extra 10 cogs stamped out.

          If you ware writing code and work an hour of overtime you may get an hours worth of codeing, you may get some burn out, you may even set yourself back if done at a time you should sl
    • by Anomolous Cowturd (190524) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:18PM (#18709027)
      Getting shit done.

      Some people can get shit done without working really hard.

      Some people work really hard and never seem to get anything done.

      Which would you rather employ?
      • by ArsonSmith (13997)
        Some people lift weights.

        Some people do yard work.

        Both get good exercise. One actually accomplishes something useful.

        I always laugh when someone first pays to go to the gym then pays someone to cut their grass.
        • by drsquare (530038)
          Except yard work isn't very good exercise. Cutting the grass is about as strenuous as lifting the lighting possible weight in the gym.
      • In the last few places I've worked, the people who work long hours are the ones that are the most desirable.

        Never mind that I always get stuff done on time or ahead of schedule. What matters is that I'm not warming up a chair for more that 40 hours a week.
      • Which would you rather employ?

        Depends on your business model. Some businesses (like those making a living burning up pork-barrel funds from their Congresscritter) like people that will put in a fair amount of overtime, whether they get much of anything done or not. As long as they can write up a snazzy report about how hard they worked and bluff their way through the next funding cycle, "everybody wins" and they all get another round of paychecks and the member of Congress gets to brag about how many j

      • The one with the biggest breasts?
      • My Calculus professor in college told me a story about this. I believe the story is about his father, but I'm not entirely sure about the details...

        He worked on a railroad, doing something with boxcars. I believe the idea was to unscrew the doors and remove them... something like that. Anyway, one day, he figures out a new way of working, and does a day's worth of work in a few minutes. He takes it to his boss.

        Boss: So how many of these can you do per day now?
        Foreman: How many do you need?
        Boss: Um... 10, 15
    • The difference is, someone who is secure is going to say, "I worked a good 8 hours today (not counting lunch), I'm going to go home and have a nice dinner, because people can look at what I did today and know I'm an excellent worker."

      Whereas an insecure person will work 11 hours, and worry when they go home because they don't value themselves and therefore think that no one values them either, and don't understand that their work is better than other people's work, and worry worry worry about being fired al
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      from my 10 years climbing the corporate ladder?

      It's a combination, how brown your nose can get, how good are you at selling your self and your idea, and finally who you know and who knows you.

      That is IT. I dont care if your IQ is 167, you can solve any problem, and you are an incredible employee.

      IF you cant make everyone believe you are a "really good guy", make sure your name is on the lips of those that are higher up, and constantly sell yourself as if you were a product you will NOT get to upper manage
    • Please fill in these forms and this disclaimer.
    • by DannyO152 (544940)
      Near as I can tell, the management at the law firm knows that working hard doesn't matter, so I guess they're not working hard. If they want hard workers, it must be because the company needs the hard workers it doesn't have, so it.... must.... matter.... Thank God I'm not a computer on Star Trek, I would be lights out and smoking.
  • by 8127972 (73495) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:49PM (#18708451)
    "In the real world, bosses are known to suffer from a long list of social pathologies: naked aggression, credit hogging, micromanaging, bullying, you name it. "

    So that explains everything that Ballmer has ever done. I knew there had to be a logical reason.
  • Did you get that memo about the new TPS report cover letter?
    • by treeves (963993)
      Yeah, I have the memo right here. I just forgot. It's not a big deal because the report doesn't ship out until Tuesday anyway.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:56PM (#18708599)
    Simple. It's been said already. They suffer from a few pathologies. Micromanagement ("look, he's puttng work into the fine details and doesn't ignore the minor things"), credit hogging ("And Smith from dpt. X was again the one who did it"). So who gets promoted? The guy with the toughest ellbows.

    Of COURSE it's the jerk. And that also proves true the old saying "Those who can do, those who can't supervise". If they could, they'd be busy doing instead of trying to bully, hog the limelight and putz around with petty details.
  • Bah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stanistani (808333) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:16PM (#18708995) Homepage Journal
    I have no patience for analysis. I use cheat codes, defeat the bosses, and win the game.
  • Umm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nicklott (533496) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:38PM (#18709385)
    Does anyone actually work anywhere that these "boss" stereotypes are real? I've worked a lot of places, and had good and bad bosses, but my immediate managers have never displayed these characteristics (bullying, credit hogging etc). In a real company people who do these things are found out pretty fast and dumped. Surely this is just some weird Dilbert-type fantasy world we're talking about?
    • Yes. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by KingSkippus (799657) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:57PM (#18709689) Homepage Journal

      I've worked at two jobs where I've seen the reality of bosses to this extreme of badness.

      A couple of examples: At the first one, my boss used to walk up and down behind our cubes every five minutes or so to make sure we were at our desks and working. If we weren't, she would start asking our neighbors where we were, when we would be back, etc. (And we were all hard-working professionals.) She even asked me to go to the men's room once to try to track down one of my coworkers. (I refused, and fortunately, he got back to his desk before it got ugly.)

      I'll never forget once in a meeting, her boss suggested a change that we make to one of the reports we generated. He wasn't ugly about it, and he wasn't complaining; he was just trying to make it a little better than it was. Right there in front of him and all of us, she said, "I've told them that they're supposed to be doing that. I don't know why, but they just won't." (Of course, this being a new change, she was flat-out lying.)

      At my last job, I honestly think my boss was crazy. As in, seriously, mental problems. He would yell and scream at people who were actually trying to help him with something. I'll never forget when he pulled me into a meeting and reamed me up and down because I was doing my job--are you sitting down?--too well. He told me, "This is really great quality work, but great is the worst enemy of good. I really need you to just do what you're working on, you know, good enough, and then move on to other things."

      God, how I love leaving that company. He was on vacation when I turned in my notice, and I told the Human Resources lady (who, incidentally, I had talked to on two separate occasions about his behavior with absolutely nothing done about it), "Look, I know this is bad form, and if the circumstances weren't so extreme, I wouldn't do this. But the truth of the matter is that I do not want to ever see my boss again, so I will not be working out a two-week notice. Friday will be my last day."

      Fortunately, I've had a couple of very good bosses to compensate for these horrible experiences. My current boss is a gem, and you all should be so lucky to have one like him. I guess we all have our professional ups and downs, and I've had some real doozies on both sides of that spectrum.

      • by emurphy42 (631808)
        Not that I doubt boss #2's nuttiness, but "great is the enemy of good" can be true in some cases, e.g.
        • The ratio of added cost to added benefit is high enough that the buyer balks at paying the added cost
        • The time could be spent on another project that will do more to spur future business
    • Usually the bullying and micromanaging only comes out when the boss is under stress. They know such behavior is counterproductive, so most of the time they keep it under control. If they did it all the time, people would jump ship. People who show aggression and other social pathologies don't make it as managers, unless there is some other factor like nepotism, or he/she is socially connected to much more powerful people in the organization.

      If the manager doesn't like you or respect your work, you often
    • And you see it everywhere. Middle management and upwards. It depends who you deal with mostly. Basically, they have fuck all else to do all day except play politics.

       
    • No, it's not fiction.

      Where can I start?

      I'm an EE, and I work with embedded firmware design. I make my job look easy. I've been programming since I was 8, so it's about as hard for me as reading is for most people. I was hired to work on a new interface for an existing project. They also hired a project manager.

      I've basically done most of the work. The project manager decided to put the project behind by three months while redoing my work. I know that it's based on my work because I was getting tired of the
    • by lawpoop (604919)
      This might sound a little strange, but you probably were raised by people who were more or less mentally healthy.

      I used to think that childhood issues were bullshit, until I started dealing with my own issues and seeking professional mental health. On my own, I really started learning about social rules, personality types, and mental illness. Mental illnesses have a way of propagating themselves -- not all of them, but certain ones can, and thus do. (I'm not certain that this idea is accepted by mainstrea
  • by Kris_B_04 (883011) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:43PM (#18709463) Homepage Journal
    When I began my career as a programmer, I got a job with a great, but small company. The boss had built it from nothing. He had built his life from nothing.. .and he LOVED to tell everyone about that. (We would get lecture upon lecture about it, in fact. ;) How if he could do it, anyone could do it.)

    But he was a good man. He actually could separate business from personal and he was great when he wasn't in "boss mode". His company got larger and he ended up in "boss mode" more often and that was when people started thinking of him as more of an asshole.

    In the beginning, before he got "older" and "comfortable".. (Millionaire maybe now?), he was sociable as well. He took care of his employees and they were happy. He had monthly picnics and ice cream socials. Took us all to baseball games and all sorts of great stuff. He even had parties in his own home! Then, we think he got greedy. (more more more money!) and he started treating his techs like monkeys. (Any monkey can do this.. why pay graduates when we can train anyone off the street and pay them dirt cheap). He started treating the rest of his employees poorly as well. He still tried to keep up the "act" but his heart wasn't in it anymore.. and his employees started noticing that..

    I (and others) saw the change coming. I got out of there, but there were tears. LOL (Hey, I'm still a girl dammit). He had taken good care of me and my son, above and beyond.. but that was before... that was earlier. Yes.. I actually hugged my boss on my last day... ;)

    So, in this rambling, what I'm trying to say, is that not all bosses are assholes.. and maybe it becomes a learned trait. Maybe the system and society wear them down... maybe they become that way because that is what is expected or maybe they see those who are assholes really moving up the corporate ladder. Whatever the reason, it truly has become a job description for many bosses. And the more people who see it as a means to an end, the more people will pull that out of themselves just to get where they want to go. Yes, there are a lot who were "born" as assholes and never change throughout life (with what we are seeing, what motivation IS there to change?), but it's not a steady progression. It's not all defined under one stereotype... it is my belief that society MAKES the assholes because we allow them to BE assholes.

    Kris
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by meringuoid (568297)
      So, in this rambling, what I'm trying to say, is that not all bosses are assholes.. and maybe it becomes a learned trait. Maybe the system and society wear them down... maybe they become that way because that is what is expected or maybe they see those who are assholes really moving up the corporate ladder.

      See The Godfather parts 1 and 2 for a fine illustration of this principle at work.

    • by geekoid (135745)
      I am curious. Did you tell him what you were percieving about him?

      Not that you would be obligated to.
    • by lawpoop (604919)
      Maybe, as the company grew, he took on more workers who may or may not have been as high caliber as you. As the organization got larger, he couldn't see what was happening from an 'on the ground' perspective, and felt distant and alienated from his own company. He knew that things were happening, but now it was less under his control and influence. If something bad was going on, he knew it must be something with the new people, but he had no idea who or why or how to fix or even influence the situation posi
    • by syousef (465911)
      Sorry but that's a load of apologist tripe. Being a girl doesn't have to mean you let your heart rule over your head. Your boss got greedy and you got out which is the right thing for you and your family. Doing good one day doesn't give you a free pass to do evil the next. No one makes excuses for a serial killer because at one time they were a nice quiet boy.

      I've worked for a similar company. The founders (One middle age man and his younger partner were absolutely fantastic during the boom when I was hired
  • by hey! (33014) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:47PM (#18709527) Homepage Journal
    First of all there is agency costs. Jerks -- people who exploit people for their personal benefit -- don't confine themselves to screwing their underlings. They just exploit their superiors more carefully.

    Come to think of it, buying into the notion that being a jerk makes you an effective manager may explain a lot of things. Like Enron.

    The second problem is that there is a much more obvious explanation for why most bosses tend to act like jerks. They're over their heads. Most negative behaviors are defensive behaviors to cover up for the fact that things are out of control. Most people never receive any trainign in leadership. In fact they don't receive much traning in the mnagement tasks they have to do. They're just promoted until they reach a level where their dysfunction is so severe only a moron would promote them any higher. And a few of them work for morons.

    Imagine a person in a boss role who happens to be splendidly equipped for that role. He has strong people and communication skills, a knack for organization, a good knowledge of the field he is working in as well as management techniques. Is he likely to be a jerk?
    • by msimm (580077)

      Imagine a person in a boss role who happens to be splendidly equipped for that role. He has strong people and communication skills, a knack for organization, a good knowledge of the field he is working in as well as management techniques. Is he likely to be a jerk?

      You realize you just described the *exact* reason "jerks" tend to move forward? The ideal boss you've described is middle management. Works with the people. Is important *exactly where he is*.

      So what's in his future? Big bonuses? Promotion? No

  • It would be interesting to see them do a workup on law enforcement types, as I have always said a certain type of person is drawn to being LEOs...and to some degree, maybe that type of person is needed in that type of job.

    Also interesting would be Wal-Mart Manager/Assistant Manager science, as all the management wannabes that can't get real management jobs, end up as management at Wal-Mart. Maybe they would be profiled as dumb jerks?

    Transporter_ii

       
  • by geekoid (135745)
    " Research also shows that employees tend to see the jerk as boss material. "

    If that were true, I'd be king of the world!
  • And so, the research shows, employees tend to see the jerk, the narcissist, and yes, even the asshole, as boss material.

    I think this should have said: "Bosses tend to see the jerk employee, the narcissist employee, and yes, even the asshole employee, as boss material." The thing is, [rank-and-file] employees don't promote bosses. Bosses promote bosses. So really, you have a self-perpetuating system here.

    --Rob

  • FTFA:
    "Being an asshole," he says flatly, "is a contagious disease."

    Guess thats what happens when you hang alot around slashdot too. :-)
  • It is natural for employees to see the jerk as boss material, because (I believe) two out of three are in fact are low-life jerks that would rape their own children for token-wealth and pseudo-power. This is the way it has been throughout human history, the jerks get top billing and the credit for everything. I chuckle every time I hear a fellow citizen credit Prez-Ron Reagan with winning the "Cold-War". Prez-Ron (though very likable) won the "Cold War" about as much as he fought in "World War II". Mention

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